Elvis Costello & the Imposters|Elvis Costello, London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas

The Delivery Man|Il Sogno

Rock's most protean performer busts not one but two very divergent moves. The Delivery Man encapsulates the best aspects of Costello's past work without recycling -- the volatile "Button My Lip" combines the craftiness of Spikeand When I Was Cruel with the renewed snarl of Brutal Youth. "Country Darkness" and the yearning "Either Side of the Same Town" recall Elvis' inspired affinity for old-school country-tinged Southern R&B. "There's a Story in Your Voice" (with Lucinda Williams) and the garage-rock-goes-to-New Orleans romp "Monkey to Man" affirm that, while EC has indeed hit the 50-year mark, he retains the melodious audacity that hooked us back in '78. Il Sogno (with a symphony orchestra) is Elvis' first foray into large-scale composition, intended for A Midsummer Night's Dream ballet presentation. While most rockers' attempts to "go classical" suffer from the "take me seriously" syndrome, Costello's score is a model of delicacy and restraint -- the jazzy, rhythmic inspirations of Igor Stravinsky, George Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein are artfully interwoven into articulate, buoyant vignettes. The House of Costello remains secure.

 
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